New York took an aggressive stance on fossil fuels this week, effectively halting development of new fossil fuel power plants in the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation denied approval for two planned natural gas power plants because they were incompatible with the state’s climate law, which calls for an end to electricity generation from fossil fuels by 2040.
Although the proposed facilities would be more efficient than those currently in operation, the state agency said the facilities would cause “significant” amounts of pollution and that their construction now, less than 20 years after the target net-zero emission date, ” inconsistent ”with the requirements of climate law.
New York’s climate law requires polluters to consider two sources of emissions: from the plants themselves and from the natural gas supply chain. If one takes into account the latter – figures that were almost always ignored in the past when determining the pollution of a power plant – the emissions quickly exceeded the limit values of the DEC, according to the resolutions.
Danskammer Energy had proposed adding a new gas turbine to its 532 MW peaker power plant in Newburgh, which runs during times of high demand, so that the plant can run more routinely. NRG had proposed replacing the 50-year-old turbines at its 647 MW Peaker power plant in Astoria, Queens.
The two companies both argued that the gas-fired power plants would help keep the grid stable as more solar and wind power came on stream, claiming that the new turbines would drive older, dirtier sources off the grid.
Both companies also said they would switch from natural gas to hydrogen or renewable natural gas by the net zero date of 2040, an industry term that refers to methane obtained from sources such as landfills and animal manure.
But the DEC found none of these arguments convincing. The agency pointed out that hydrogen is not currently used as a fuel for large combustion power plants and that renewable natural gas, while available on a small scale, is not significant enough today to be considered. “Overall, the applicant’s plan to comply with the emission-free generation target of the Climate Law by 2040 is uncertain and speculative in nature,” says a decision.
The DEC also criticized the logic with which both companies suggested that the new systems would displace emissions to other points in the network. The problem, the agency said, is that their modeling was based on too many assumptions – in particular, “projected Discounts that could occur around miscellaneous GHG emission sources throughout the state “(emphasis in original). In other words, since no company can control the actions of other polluters, they cannot count speculative reductions elsewhere as their own.
“Denying projects like Astoria is just shortsighted and bad public order,” said Tom Atkins, vice president of development at NRG Energy, in a statement to Ars could be completely converted to green hydrogen. “
While both companies have the option to appeal the decision, neither has said whether it will. Astoria is slated to shut down in 2023 under current emissions regulations.
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